How Passive Architecture Makes Building and Nature Closer

Passive Architecture

Passive architecture, also known as passive design or passive solar design, is an approach to architectural design that harnesses natural elements to create comfortable and energy-efficient buildings. It takes advantage of the local climate, site conditions, and natural resources to passively regulate temperature, lighting, and ventilation, reducing the reliance on mechanical systems. The goal of passive architecture is to create buildings that are comfortable, environmentally friendly, and energy-efficient.

Key Principles and Strategies of Passive Architecture

Passive architecture offers numerous benefits, including reduced energy costs, improved occupant comfort, and decreased environmental impact. It embraces a more sustainable and harmonious approach to design, working in harmony with nature to create buildings that are energy-efficient, resilient, and conducive to the well-being of occupants. By incorporating these passive design principles, architects can contribute to a more sustainable built environment and help mitigate the effects of climate change.

Solar Orientation:

Passive architecture starts with the careful consideration of a building’s orientation in relation to the sun. By aligning the building’s layout and windows to maximize exposure to the sun’s path, designers can harness natural daylight and passive solar heat gain during the winter months while minimizing heat gain during the summer.

Building Envelope:

The building envelope, including the roof, walls, and windows, plays a crucial role in passive design. It focuses on insulation, airtightness, and thermal mass to regulate heat flow and maintain comfortable indoor temperatures. High-performance insulation materials and techniques help reduce heat loss or gain through the building envelope, while thermal mass materials like concrete or stone can store and release heat slowly, stabilizing indoor temperatures.

Natural Ventilation:

The passive architecture utilizes natural ventilation to provide fresh air circulation and cooling. By strategically placing windows, vents, and openings, designers can facilitate the movement of air through the building, taking advantage of prevailing winds and the stack effect (the natural convection of warm air rising and cool air sinking). This approach reduces the need for mechanical ventilation systems, especially in mild climates.


Maximizing natural daylight is a key aspect of passive architecture. It involves careful window placement and design, incorporating skylights or light shelves to bring natural light deep into the building’s interior. By reducing reliance on artificial lighting during the day, passive architecture not only saves energy but also enhances occupant comfort, well-being, and productivity.

Shading and Overhangs:

Proper shading is crucial to prevent excessive heat gain during the summer months. Passive architecture employs shading devices such as eaves, louvres, awnings, or vegetation to block direct sunlight from entering the building while still allowing diffused light. These elements protect the interior from overheating, reducing the need for cooling systems.

Natural Landscaping:

The surrounding landscape plays a significant role in passive architecture. By strategically planting trees, shrubs, and vegetation, designers can create natural windbreaks, provide additional shading, and reduce the urban heat island effect. Well-designed landscaping also improves the overall aesthetic appeal of the building and enhances the connection between indoor and outdoor spaces.

Passive Solar Heating:

The passive architecture incorporates features that capture and store solar energy for heating purposes. This can include south-facing windows, thermal mass walls or floors, and solar collectors or thermal panels. These elements absorb and store solar heat during the day, releasing it slowly during colder periods, reducing the need for traditional heating systems.

Energy-Efficient Appliances and Lighting:

While passive architecture primarily focuses on reducing energy demand through design strategies, it also promotes the use of energy-efficient appliances and lighting fixtures. By choosing energy-saving appliances, LED lighting, and smart controls, occupants can further reduce energy consumption within a passive building.

Sustainable Architecture vs Passive Architecture

Sustainable architecture and passive architecture are related concepts that share similar goals but approach them from different angles. While there is some overlap between the two, they each have distinct focuses and strategies.

Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture, as mentioned earlier, encompasses a broad range of design principles and strategies aimed at minimizing the environmental impact of buildings throughout their life cycle. It takes into account energy efficiency, water conservation, material selection, waste reduction, community integration, and more. Sustainable architecture considers the overall ecological footprint of a building, including its construction, operation, and eventual disposal. It emphasizes the use of renewable energy sources, environmentally friendly materials, and the promotion of healthy and resilient communities.

Passive Architecture

On the other hand, passive architecture, also known as passive design or passive solar design, specifically focuses on using natural elements and design strategies to achieve energy efficiency and thermal comfort. Passive architecture harnesses the power of the sun, wind, and other natural resources to regulate temperature, lighting, and ventilation within a building. It prioritizes solar orientation, insulation, thermal mass, natural ventilation, and daylighting to reduce or eliminate the need for mechanical heating, cooling, and lighting systems. The primary aim of passive architecture is to optimize a building’s energy performance and occupant comfort through passive means.

Passive Strategies within Sustainability

In essence, sustainable architecture addresses a broader range of environmental and social concerns related to the entire life cycle of a building, while passive architecture is a specific subset of sustainable design that focuses primarily on energy efficiency and thermal comfort. Sustainable architecture encompasses various strategies, including passive design principles, as part of its overall approach to creating environmentally friendly and socially responsible buildings.

It’s important to note that passive architecture is one of the many strategies employed within sustainable architecture. When designing a sustainable building, architects may incorporate passive design principles alongside other sustainable strategies, such as energy-efficient systems, water conservation measures, responsible material selection, and community integration, to create a comprehensive and holistic sustainable architectural design.

Buildings with Passive Architecture Technique

Pearl River Tower

Venturi effect

The Pearl River Tower in Guangzhou, China, does utilize the Venturi effect principles to improve natural ventilation and enhance energy efficiency. The Pearl River Tower is a highly sustainable skyscraper that incorporates various green design features, including the use of the Venturi effect. The building’s unique design, with its asymmetrical shape and strategically placed openings, facilitates the creation of the Venturi effect.

The Venturi effect is achieved by having narrower sections of the building on certain sides and wider sections on others. As wind passes through the narrower sections, it speeds up, creating a lower pressure zone. This causes air to be drawn into the building, resulting in natural ventilation. The wider sections of the building allow for the expulsion of air, completing the ventilation cycle.

By harnessing the Venturi effect, the Pearl River Tower can take advantage of natural air movement to provide efficient and sustainable ventilation. This reduces the need for mechanical cooling and helps optimize energy consumption within the building.


Venturi effect

The Venturi effect is a phenomenon that occurs when there is a change in the speed of a fluid flowing through a constricted section of a pipe or channel. This change in speed leads to a corresponding change in pressure. However, the Venturi effect is not directly applicable to the Hawa Mahal in Jaipur, India.

Hawa Mahal, also known as the “Palace of the Winds,” is a famous palace constructed in 1799. It is a five-story building with a unique honeycomb-like structure featuring numerous small windows or “jharokhas” that allow airflow to pass through. These windows were designed to provide ventilation and cooling for the palace’s interior.

While the design of Hawa Mahal promotes natural ventilation, it doesn’t specifically utilize the Venturi effect. The windows of the palace are strategically placed to capture and channel the prevailing winds, creating a cooling breeze within the building. The design of the windows allows air to flow in and circulate, thereby providing a cooling effect during hot weather.

The Venturi effect, on the other hand, refers to the change in fluid speed and pressure in a constricted passage. It is commonly observed in applications such as fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, and fluid mechanics. While the Hawa Mahal utilizes architectural techniques to enhance airflow and ventilation, it does not rely on the Venturi effect as a design principle.

East gate Centre

solar chimney

The Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe, is known for its innovative design that incorporates passive cooling inspired by termite mounds. The building utilizes a solar chimney system to regulate temperature and provide natural ventilation. Here’s how the solar chimney technique works in the Eastgate Centre:


The Eastgate Centre’s design mimics the cooling system of termite mounds found in the region. Termite mounds maintain a stable internal temperature through a network of air channels that facilitate airflow. The building’s architects, Mick Pearce and Arup Associates drew inspiration from this natural system to create an energy-efficient cooling solution.

Solar Chimneys:

The Eastgate Centre features a large central atrium that serves as a solar chimney. The atrium is designed with open spaces, stairwells, and narrow vertical openings known as flues or vents that allow air to circulate freely.

Airflow Dynamics:

During the day, solar radiation warms the air inside the atrium. The warm air rises naturally, creating an updraft or chimney effect. This effect is further enhanced by the stack effect, where the warm air’s buoyancy draws in cooler air from lower levels of the building.

Thermal Mass:

The building incorporates thermal mass materials, such as concrete and brick, to absorb and store heat during the day. These materials help regulate temperature by slowing down heat transfer and releasing stored heat gradually when temperatures drop at night.

Night Cooling:

At night, the building’s large thermal mass releases the stored heat, helping to cool down the interior. Windows throughout the building open automatically to allow cooler nighttime air to flow in, refreshing the internal environment.


The solar chimney system facilitates natural ventilation by drawing fresh air into the building through openings at the lower levels. As the warm air rises through the atrium, it creates a pressure difference that drives the airflow, allowing for continuous natural ventilation.

By utilizing the solar chimney technique, the Eastgate Centre significantly reduces its reliance on traditional mechanical cooling systems. This design approach has resulted in significant energy savings and made the building more sustainable and environmentally friendly. The Eastgate Centre stands as an example of how innovative architectural designs can leverage nature-inspired solutions to create energy-efficient buildings.

Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre

earth coupling

The Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre in British Columbia, Canada, incorporates earth coupling principles in its design to blend with the surrounding desert landscape. Here’s an overview of how the earth coupling system works in the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre:

Earth-Sheltered Design:

A significant portion of the building is partially buried into the earth, utilizing the thermal mass and insulating properties of the surrounding soil. This earth-sheltered design helps regulate indoor temperatures by reducing heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer.

Green Roofs:

The Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre features extensive green roofs that are planted with native vegetation. These green roofs provide additional insulation, absorb rainfall, and reduce stormwater runoff. They also help to integrate the building with the natural environment and reduce its visual impact.

Natural Daylighting:

The building design maximizes the use of natural daylight through strategically placed windows and skylights. This reduces the reliance on artificial lighting during the day, minimizing energy consumption. The design also takes into account solar orientation to optimize daylighting and minimize solar heat gain.

Thermal Mass:

The Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre utilizes materials with high thermal mass, such as rammed earth walls and concrete floors. These materials absorb and store heat energy, helping to regulate indoor temperatures and reduce the need for mechanical heating or cooling.

Passive Solar Design:

The building incorporates passive solar design strategies to harness the sun’s energy. South-facing windows and shading devices are designed to allow for optimal solar gain in the winter months while minimizing heat gain during summer. This helps to naturally heat the building in winter and reduce cooling loads in summer.

Sustainable Materials:

The construction of the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre emphasizes the use of sustainable and locally sourced materials, such as rammed earth and wood. These materials have low embodied energy and contribute to the overall sustainability of the building.

By incorporating these earth coupling design principles, the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre creates a harmonious connection with its desert surroundings. It promotes energy efficiency, sustainability, and a sense of place by blending with the natural environment and responsibly utilizing the Earth’s resources.

One Angel Square - double skin facade Solar Passive Architecture

One Angel Square

double skin facade

One Angel Square, located in Manchester, United Kingdom, is an office building that utilizes a double-skin facade to reduce solar heat gain and improve energy efficiency. Here’s how the double skin facade in One Angel Square helps in reducing solar heat:

Solar Shading:

The outer layer of the double skin facade incorporates shading devices such as vertical fins or louvres. These elements are strategically designed to block direct sunlight from entering the building during peak solar exposure times. By reducing direct solar radiation, the shading devices help minimize solar heat gain.

Ventilation and Airflow:

The double skin facade creates an air gap or cavity between the outer and inner layers. This cavity allows for natural ventilation and airflow. The air between the layers acts as insulation, preventing the transfer of heat from the exterior to the interior of the building. The ventilation within the cavity can be enhanced by incorporating operable windows or vents to facilitate the movement of air.

Thermal Insulation:

The air gap in the double-skin facade acts as thermal insulation. It reduces the transmission of heat through conduction, convection, and radiation. The insulated cavity helps maintain a more stable indoor temperature and reduces the reliance on mechanical cooling systems, resulting in energy savings.

Natural Daylighting:

The double-skin facade design allows for controlled daylight penetration into the building while mitigating solar heat gain. The outer layer, with its shading devices, helps diffuse and distribute natural light, reducing the need for artificial lighting. This reduces the heat generated by lighting fixtures and further contributes to energy efficiency.

Solar Control Coatings:

The glass used in the outer layer of the double-skin facade can be coated with solar control films or coatings. These coatings selectively reflect or absorb solar radiation, reducing the amount of heat transmitted into the building’s interior.

By combining these strategies, the double skin facade in One Angel Square helps to minimize solar heat gain, improve thermal comfort, and reduce the building’s energy consumption. It creates a more sustainable and energy-efficient office environment while allowing for ample daylight and views.

Dowlatabad Garden


The windcatcher in Dowlatabad Garden, located in Yazd, Iran, is a traditional architectural feature designed to harness natural ventilation and reduce the internal temperature of the building. Here’s how the windcatcher works to achieve this:

Capture of Wind:

The windcatcher is a tall, tower-like structure with openings or vents at the top, facing the prevailing wind direction. As the wind blows, it enters the windcatcher and gets channelled downwards.

Air Movement and Ventilation:

Inside the building, the windcatcher is connected to a series of underground ducts or channels. The downward-moving air from the windcatcher is directed through these underground channels, which are often built beneath the building’s main living spaces.

Cooling Effect:

As the wind passes through the underground channels, it cools down due to contact with the cooler soil. The underground channels act as heat sinks, absorbing and dissipating heat from the air. This helps to lower the temperature of the incoming air.

Ventilation and Airflow:

The cooled air is then released into the interior spaces of the building through vents or openings located at the bottom of the underground channels. This process creates a natural flow of air, providing ventilation and cooling to the occupied areas.

Stack Effect:

The windcatcher utilizes the principle of the stack effect, which is the natural tendency of hot air to rise and create an upward airflow. As the cooled air is released into the building, it displaces warmer air, which rises and exits through openings such as windows or other vents. This promotes continuous airflow and helps to expel hot air, further contributing to cooling.

By utilizing the windcatcher and the underground channels, Dowlatabad Garden harnesses the cooling power of wind and natural ventilation to reduce the internal temperature of the building. This traditional design technique has been used for centuries in hot and arid regions to provide passive cooling and improve thermal comfort in buildings.

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